Newly Proposed Legislative Map Would Divide Some Centralia-Chehalis Communities Along Interstate 5

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A legislative map proposed by the Washington State Redistricting Commission would split portions of rural Chehalis and Centralia communities along Interstate 5, taking some communities that have traditionally been in the 20th Legislative District and putting them into the 19th.

That means I-5 will now play a larger role in the politics at play in Lewis County. Depending on what part of the interstate you live on could soon determine who represents you. Centralia and Chehalis proper are kept whole, but rural homeowners to the west who hold an address with the city may find themselves with a different lawmaker.

The 20th Legislative District’s westward hook, which includes Adna and many northwest Lewis County communities east of the Chehalis River, will likely be absorbed into the 19th if the maps are passed by the state Supreme Court. Pe Ell, Doty and Grand Mound will also be represented by representatives other than those in the 19th.

Downtown Winlock, which today currently sits on the border on the 20th’s side, will likely be drawn into the 19th.

The commission’s boundaries drawn for the 3rd Congressional District, as expected, have shaved off Klickitat County in exchange for more of South Thurston County’s rural communities — Tenino, Rainier, Rochester and parts of south Yelm.

Approved maps can be viewed online at www.redistricting.wa.gov.

Though it missed a midnight deadline Monday night, the bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission this week released its completed maps reapportioning the population for new congressional and legislative districts.

The maps could influence or be adopted by the state Supreme Court. Because of the missed deadline, the court  for the first time will redraw Washington’s 49 legislative districts and 10 congressional districts. The court’s deadline is April 30.

Though the GOP finds itself at a disadvantage with a liberal state Supreme Court, Republican leaders are voicing unanimous support for passing the commission’s maps in untouched fashion.

“The Supreme Court should adopt the legislative and congressional redistricting maps unanimously approved by the four members of the Redistricting Commission before midnight the day of the deadline,” said Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, in a Friday statement.

“All four commissioners repeated their unanimous approval during their press conference this week. The boundaries of the new districts are not ideal. I don’t like everything I see in the maps, but the court’s only role should be to endorse the maps,” he continued.

House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, said that while the maps are not perfect from his perspective, the court and its justices should respect the bipartisan nature of the maps and approve them.

“Speaker Laurie Jinkins said she hopes the Washington Supreme Court will consider these bipartisan maps. I believe the court should adopt these maps and respect the public input that went into developing them,” he said in a statement.

Wilcox and Braun, who appointed two of the four voting members on the bipartisan commission, also voiced appreciation to Republican Commissioners Paul Graves and Joe Fain this week for the heavy task of redrawing the maps.

The five members of the Redistricting Commission gathered remotely Thursday morning for a press briefing in their first appearance since missing Monday’s deadline. During that appearance, commissioners defended the process and their maps and urged the state Supreme Court to adopt them.

“I would say, lastly, that these maps are legitimate, and that any statements to suggest otherwise are a calculated attempt to undermine our democratic process,” Commissioner April Sims, a Democrat, said during the press conference. “Planting seeds of doubt about our maps deteriorates trust in our democratic institutions and the norms that we as a county hold so dear, and we must vigilantly guard against this. ‘One person, one vote’ is a foundational principle and I was privileged to play a role in this.”

Both sides of the bipartisan commission also refuted any claims they were negotiating map boundaries in the hours following the midnight deadline, though they acknowledged they were working to actually draw the maps from agreed upon boundary descriptions.

Commissioners also voiced disappointment in the lack of transparency that was displayed Monday night. For nearly all of the five-hour meeting leading up to Monday night’s deadline, the group met off screen in what they called “caucus dyads,” allegedly meeting separately with their caucus mate.

While it’s been discussed that the commission may not have violated state open public meeting act laws, some open government advocates have said the commission violated the spirit of the law.

“We set a pretty high standard for ourselves. I personally believe in open government, and the chaos of last night I think fell short of that,” Graves said.

Late Thursday, following the press conference, the state Supreme Court filed an order requiring the commission’s nonpartisan Chair Sarah Augustine to submit a sworn declaration with a detailed timeline of Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, including any votes taken, to the court by Monday, Nov. 22.

Washington, like all other 49 states in the U.S., is required every 10 years to redraw its districts following the U.S. census.

As of Thursday, 14 states — not counting the six with only one congressional district — had approved new redistricting maps, according to nonpartisan political polling website FiveThirtyEight. The deadline on submitting those maps may change state-to-state.

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